Wednesday 28 July 2010

Tickets still available for GLC classical concert

Jacob Shaw, Suyeon Kang, and CharLi have arrived in Edinburgh to begin rehersals for GLC's Classical Concert, which takes place in Glasgow this Friday, 30 July 2010. The concert is to raise funds for our new Schools Trust and tickets are still available.

The concert is in Adelaides Auditorium on the evening of Friday, 30 July 2010, 209 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HZ. Ticket prices are £10 for adults and £5 for children. A draft programme is here. To buy or reserve tickets, or for further information, please contact GLC on 0141 440 2503 or e-mail m; or fax us on 0141 445 3934. Please note that 100% of the ticket price will go to help school children in Glasgow Govan; everyone involved in this event is kindly donating their time without charge to support our trust fund.

GLC will be setting up a stand-alone charitable trust which will provide funds to help local school children in Glasgow Govan. The new trust will help pay for additional school materials, educational visits and school trips for kids who otherwise couldn't afford to enjoy such opportunities, as well as providing a number of specific educational bursaries to help local Govan kids progress with their studies.

Friday 23 July 2010

Call for consultation on Law Society of Scotland's governance reform to start again

In response to the Law Society of Scotland's consultation on the reform of its constitution and standing orders (CSO), Govan Law Centre has expressed concern that very few firms or solicitors appeared to have engaged in the consultation process.

GLC has suggested that the consultation process should be commenced afresh as a two-stage process. Firstly, to allow members to identify the 'high level principles' that a 21st century governance structure should aim to achieve; and secondly, to then take those high level principles as a framework, and draft a new CSO from them, and thereafter consult on that draft CSO.   We believe this would be an inclusive and constructive approach to delivering effective governance reform.

Furthermore GLC believes that any consultation on changes to the governance structure of the Law Society of Scotland (‘LSS’) must take place after Stage 3 of the Legal Services (Scotland) Bill; given this Bill has a direct impact on the subject matter of any such consultation.   Our summary consultation response is available online here.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Time for banks and big business to err on the side of good, not greed

GLC has assisted Glasgow MP, Anas Sarwar, in the drafting of his Common Good (Directors Duty) Bill.  The proposed Bill would amend section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 to place a new legal duty on all directors of UK companies with 250 employees or more, to contribute to the common good of the communities or localities where the company operates or provides a service.

Section 172(1) of the 2006 Act requires a director to promote the success of the company and in so doing 'have regard' to a number of other factors.  However, there is no explicit obligation to consider the impact of corporate decisions on wider society, and the proposed Bill would remedy this clear imbalance in UK company law. 

Where the likely consequence of a director's decision would cause significant detriment to consumers, or particular groups of consumers, or the environment, the Bill requires the duty to contribute to the common good to take precedence. ‘Common good’ means contributing to the good of communities or localities where the company operates or provides a service.

Anas Sarwar MP said:
"Unacceptable culture within our banks was a major contributor to the UK's financial crisis. It's right that company law requires directors to promote the success of their companies, but that success shouldn't be at the expense of UK taxpayers, our local communities or environment. The balance in law isn't right, and directors of our largest companies need a stronger incentive to recognise their obligation to wider society. I want to amend the Companies Act to make that happen".

"Where the decision of a big company is likely to cause serious harm to our communities or the environment, the common good must prevail and companies should err on the side of good, not greed. A statutory ethical framework would improve corporate behaviour and help prevent future financial disasters and ecological harm. Leading figures in the financial services industry have acknowledged the need for a cultural change, so there is an appetite for change".

GLC's Mike Dailly said:
"Govan Law Centre is delighted to assist a Glasgow Member of Parliament to introduce a progressive law reform proposal which could have a radical impact on the culture and behaviour of the UK's biggest companies.  Often ecological disasters are a direct consquence of large companies pursuing profit margins at the expense of common sense, and the common good". 

"Within the field of UK banking, it is clear to us that its the bank's business model which causes significant detriment to the most vulnerable group of UK consumers and we believe the time is right for a sea change in the culture of senior directors of major UK financial institutions to address this unacceptable position.  Clearly, Anas Sarwar's proposed Bill will require cross-party support to progress, but we are grateful to him for launching this vitally important debate at Westminster".

Friday 16 July 2010

ECHR application following Walls v. Santander

An application to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has been made following the decision in Walls v. Santander UK plc, a copy of the 15 page judgment is available here (opens as a PDF).

Part of the pursuer's objection to the bank's application to remit from the small claims court to the ordinary sheriff court centered on article 6(1) of the Human Rights Act 1998, and relevant caselaw from the ECHR.  The court was not persuaded on this head of objection, and section 37(3) of the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971 prohibits any review of the sheriff's decision. 

Accordingly, the pursuer now seeks to bring proceedings against the United Kingdom under article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.  The Scottish Government has responsibility for access to civil justice in Scotland as a devolved matter in terms of the Scotland Act 1998.  It is hoped that the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will reconsider his refusal to look at a law reform solution to prevent a class of persons, such as the pursuer, being limited in their ability to determine their civil rights before the Scottish courts.

Priced out of justice?

The Herald has reported on the GLC case of Walls v. Santander UK plc, where Sheriff Cubie granted the defender's application for a bank charges claim to be remitted from small claims to ordinary cause procedure.

The effect of leaving the small claims system in Scotland, and indeed the UK, is that consumers lose the 'fixed limit' protection against an award of expenses in the event of failure. For example, you can sue for £3,000 and if unsuccessful your opponent would only recover £300 under small claims procedure in Scotland. However, expenses can quickly mount up in the ordinary court and as banks are using counsel to conduct their defences, litigation in the ordinary court will expose consumers to potential levels of expenses many times the value of their claim. 

For those on a low income civil legal aid may be available and GLC is in the process of applying for legal aid in some bank charges litigation which is proceeding under ordinary cause procedure. For those of modest means eligible for legal aid there will be a contribution to pay which may exceed the value of the dispute, making the dispute pointless. While for those ineligible for legal aid it may be equally impossible to proceed.

The Herald has called for greater competition in Scotland's banking sector, and we agree that is much needed in the consumer interest. However, the case of Walls illustrates a major flaw at the heart of Scotland's civil justice system. What's the point in having an accessible simplified tier of civil justice for low level claims if any powerful opponent can come along, up the ante, and 'price' you out of justice?  There is no right to appeal or review a decision to remit under the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Act 1971.

Access to justice requires citizens to be able to access the courts at a cost proportionate to the value of their monetary claim. The small claims system help fulfils our state's article 6(1) requirement under the European Convention on Human Rights. But there is now a 'class of litigants' who are priced out of justice. GLC believes there is an obvious solution. The small claims fixed limit on expenses should 'travel' with the case.   This would ensure that the costs of resolving the dispute remained proportionate and fair having regard to the monetary value of the dispute.  This could be achieved by a minor statutory amendment.

GLC has made this law reform call in today's The Herald.  Unfortunately, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in Scotland appears to have rejected our call without understanding the current legal position.  Kenny MacAskill said: "People are still able to raise bank charge cases in the small-claims court – this ruling does nothing to stop that".  Yes, but this ruling makes it crystal clear that all bank charge claims are susceptible to be removed from the small claims court.  This has already happened in other cases; in Walls we tried to stop it, and were unable to do so.  Unless the Scottish Government acts, many citizens in Scotland will be priced out of justice.

We are reminded of the parable from The Trial: “Before the Law stands a doorkeeper. . . . The doorkeeper sees that the man is nearing his end, and in order to reach his failing hearing, he roars to him: ‘No one else could gain admittance here, because this entrance was meant solely for you. I’m going to go and shut it now.’”


Tuesday 13 July 2010

Debate on the future of UK human rights law

To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Cumbria Law Centre a debate on the future of the UK human rights law will take place at the University of Cumbria, Carlisle, at the law centre's AGM on 14 October 2010. Taking part in the debate will be two guest speakers, Professor John Fitzpatrick and campaigning Scottish solicitor, Mike Dailly.

For the last 21 years Professor John Fitzpatrick has been the Director of the award-winning Kent Law Clinic, based at the University of Kent's Law School, as well as having worked in community law centres in London's Brixton and Hammersmith. Also participating will be Mike Dailly, Principal Solicitor of Govan and Govanhill Law Centres. Mike is also chairperson of the Active Learning Centre, a human rights and pro-democracy charity which works in Africa, the Middle East, India and South East Asia. 

Further details of the event will be available from Cumbria Law Centre in early course.

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Young Scottish opera singer to perform at GLC Schools Trust concert

Scottish opera soprano CharLi will perform at GLC's Schools Trust concert in Glasgow on Friday 30 July 2010 at 7.30pm, along with cellist Jacob Shaw, and violinist, Suyeon Kang.  Although only 15 years old, CharLi is already recognised as an exciting new talent in the world of opera. She first appeared with Scottish Opera in Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel at just nine years old and during the last five years, she has been totally consumed by opera which now affects every aspect of her life.

CharLi is a serious musician who left school at eleven years old after becoming the youngest person ever to pass a Scottish Higher Music Exam at Grade 'A', whilst still attending primary school. A bespoke education package was then designed with the help of GLC's Education Law Unit to provide CharLi with the opportunity to develop her passion for music and achieve her full potential. She is extremely proud of her Scottish roots and is a prominent vocal ambassador for Scotland and all things good.

Since commencing her studies at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in 2008, CharLi has made remarkable progress, being able to further explore her musicality whilst developing good solid technique under the careful direction of the wonderful Mezzo Soprano, Kathleen McKellar-Ferguson. 

CharLi is much in demand and performs regularly throughout the UK and Europe. Since 2006 she has performed in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Inverness, York and several times in her second home Vienna. In 2010, she will perform in Warsaw, Vienna, Bulgaria, Singapore, Cairo and Alexandria Egypt. She also studies piano with Clare Sutherland at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and plays violin for the RSAMD orchestra.  In March 2010 CharLi won a prestigious Scottish prize, when she was awarded the "Glasgow Grand Opera Society Trophy" by Helen Lawson.

A draft programme for the concert is available here (opens as PDF). To buy or reserve tickets, or for further information, please contact GLC on 0141 440 2503 or e-mail m; or fax us on 0141 445 3934. Please note that 100% of the ticket price will go to help school children in Glasgow Govan; everyone involved in this event is kindly donating their time without charge to support our trust fund.


Saturday 3 July 2010

World-class concert to kick-start the Govan Law Centre Schools Trust

GLC is launching a new trust to support local school children in Govan, and we hope to raise funds for this initiative through a classical concert with internationally acclaimed artists, to be held in Glasgow on the evening of Friday, 30 July 2010.  Through the kind generosity of clients of our national Education Law Unit, we are delighted to announce a performance which will include some of most gifted young classical musicians on the international stage:

Jacob Shaw, cellist
Jacob Shaw is rapidly establishing himself as one of the most promising cellists of his generation, appearing reguarly across Europe to critical acclaim. Jacob first studied at the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School in London, before entering into the class of Geneviève Teulières-Sommer, and Devy Erlih at the École Normale de Musique de Paris supported by the Zaleski Fondation and the ASSOPHIE association.

He became the youngest ever cellist in the history of the school to graduate the Diplôme de Concertiste.  He has peformed across Europe and the USA, and has recorded his debut album, comprising of Sonatas and shorter works by Brahms, with the renowned Argentinean pianist José Gallardo, due for release this year. Future performances will bring him to Japan, Brazil, Korea and China.

A passionate chamber musician, Jacob is often asked to appear alongside renowned musicians, in recent years bringing him on stage with artists such as Daniel Blumenthal, Andrius Szabys, Pierre-Henri Xureb, Elisabeth Zeuthen-Schneider, Valeriy Sokolov, Mark Gothoni, Sofia Gubaidulina, Kyung-Sun Lee and José Gallardo.

Suyeon Kang, violinist
Born in South Korea, Suyeon Kang began the violin at the age of 6 in Canberra, with Josette Esquedin Morgan. During further studies in Sydney and Melbourne, she was named the Australian Young Performer of the Year 2005, which led to her concerto debut with the Sibelius Violin Concerto. In 2007 Kang moved to Germany to study with Professor Daniel Gaede (ex-concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic), and since 2009 has been working as his assistant.

Suyeon has appeared as soloist with the Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra (KORK), Bayerischer Rundfunk Orchester, the Melbourne, Tasmanian, Queensland, and Canberra Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra Victoria etc. She has performed extensively in recitals in concert venues throughout Europe, Australia and Asia.

A passionate chamber musician, Suyeon has appeared with artists such as Siegfried Jeruselem, Julius Berger, Franz Halasz, and recently formed a duo with the cellist Jacob Shaw. Always keen to push the limit of the capabilities on the violin she has worked with musicians and composers of different musical horizons, ranging from classical to jazz/folk music.

The concert will be held in Adelaides Auditorium on the evening of Friday, 30 July 2010, 209 Bath Street, Glasgow, G2 4HZ.  The programme will be finalised shortly, and will include an outstanding young classical vocalist.  Ticket prices are £10 for adults and £5 for children; no concessions are available as this is a charitable fund raising event. 

To buy or reserve tickets, or for further information, please contact GLC on 0141 440 2503 or e-mail m; or fax us on 0141 445 3934.  Please note that 100% of the ticket price will go to help school children in Glasgow Govan; everyone involved in this event is kindly donating their time without charge to support our trust fund.

GLC will be setting up a stand-alone charitable trust which will provide funds to help local school children in Glasgow Govan. The new trust will help pay for additional school materials, educational visits and school trips for kids who otherwise couldn't afford to enjoy such opportunities, as well as providing a number of specific educational bursaries to help local Govan kids progress with their studies.

Bank charges update: remit from small claims to the ordinary court

One of the current strategies of UK banks in Scotland is to ask the court to remit cases from the small claims procedure (where expenses are capped) to ordinary cause procedure (where expenses are potentially unlimited).  Remit between different court procedures, or to a senior court, can be granted where there are difficult questions of law, or exceptionally complicated factual issues. 

From the consumer's point of view having a claim removed from the small claims system means either instructing a solicitor in the hope of obtaining civil legal aid, or dropping the claim unless you were prepared to risk court expenses several times the value of your claim in the event of failure. Legal aid is not straight-forward either, one has to pass all of the qualifying hurdles, and for those on a modest to good income, you may have to pay a financial contribution to the legal aid board in excess of the value of your claim; and if you win, it is not necessarily straight-forward that you won't have 'contra' expenses, or be required to pay some of your award back to the legal aid board. Things can get complicated with expenses.

The practical result of remit will be that some consumers will drop their claims as it becomes uneconomical or financially imprudent to pursue a case.  If that happens, access to justice will have been thwarted.  This raises fundamental questions about the proportionality of our justice system in relation to expenses, and whether bank charge claimants of modest means have the right to a 'fair hearing' before our courts, as guaranteed by Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the case of Walls v. Santander UK plc, counsel for the defender sought remit from small claims to the ordinary cause. Govan Law Centre opposed this application on behalf of the pursuer.  After lengthy submissions, Sheriff Cubie at Glasgow Sheriff Court made 'avizandum' (which means he will reflect upon the issues and provide a written judgment). Sheriff Cubie's Opinion is expected later this month. GLC will provide a further update in due course.